How helping charities warms you to prospects (and how to feature this on your website)
Credibility is all about establishing trust. If you come across online as a faceless, characterless, cold business, then people will be less inclined to trust you. And if they don’t trust you, they won’t work with you.
Enter the power of donating to or supporting charities. While doing so is obviously a good thing for humanitarian purposes, it can also be good for marketing. But wait a second. Isn’t it unethical to donate to a charity simply for marketing purposes?
Fair question. And one that should be addressed before you learn how to leverage charity donations for credibility purposes.
Some people think charities have no place in marketing. They believe mixing the two is sleazy. And while it can be, that’s not always the case. So let me share some insights from conversations I had with my wife and friends about a real-life story that touches on just this subject: a rather famous Thailand cave rescue that happened in 2018.
Elon Musk, the mini-submarine and the ethical implications of donations
For those who’ve never heard of the 2018 cave rescue in Thailand1, let me give you the summary. A soccer team of 12 boys and their coach went to explore a cave after practice. But upon journeying inside, a flash flood trapped them. First the families found out that their boys were missing—then the story captured the attention of the local community, Thailand and eventually the whole world, as international rescue teams pitched in to save the kids.
Enter Elon Musk.
The billionaire entrepreneur eventually caught wind of the story and offered to help.
He suggested several ways to rescue the team, the most prominent of which was building a mini-submarine that would maneuver through the cave and carry the trapped children to safety. The idea was eventually ruled out as impractical and the kids were later rescued by an international team of divers.
Musk was both praised and criticized for his efforts. Some said he was in it just for the publicity. Others said he genuinely wanted to help. Who’s right?
After discussing with some of my marketing friends and my wife, my guess is, it was actually a little bit of both. The fact of the matter is that helping out was not Elon Musk’s idea; rather it was suggested to him by a Twitter user. Of course, his idea was impractical or even, as some have said, “absurd.” Which is another reason many believe he was just after publicity. However, aren’t absurd ideas part of Musk’s nature? His company SpaceX’s goal is to colonize Mars. If you ask me, this comes off as a much crazier idea than his cave rescue.
My point is, the cave rescue presented an opportunity for Musk to both gain publicity and help people. And his idea for the rescue aligned with his expertise. For those reasons I believe his intentions were to help others as he helped his business.
Your intentions are what determine whether you’re ethical
This is what it comes down to. The truth is, besides Elon Musk and perhaps a few of his close friends and family members, no one knows what Musk’s true intentions were.
If his intentions were only to gain publicity then, sure, his actions would be unethical. But if you ask me, if he genuinely wanted to help and believed he could, I don’t think there is anything wrong with that. I know if I were trapped in a cave, I’d rather have Elon Musk’s help than not—even if he were gaining publicity in the process.
So if you want to donate to charity for marketing purposes, just make sure it’s a legitimate charity you genuinely care about and would help regardless of whether you gained any promotion by doing so. It’s all in your intention.
How supporting charities builds credibility
I’d like to introduce you to a concept I learned from Carol Tice, about the importance of creating a personal connection with prospects. It’s something called a warm connection.
What is a warm connection?
What happens when you discover you share something in common with a new acquaintance? Or even better, what happens when you discover you share several interests?
You probably get excited. I know I immediately take to people who love NBA basketball. If you can talk hoops with me, I’ll have a hard time ever disliking you. I’m guessing you also have a few interests that excite you as well—interests that instantly create a special bond between you and a stranger.
This is what a warm connection is. It’s the things you share in common with a stranger or new acquaintance.
Warm connections are incredibly important when building trust online. In your prospects’ eyes, they have the power to transform your unfamiliar business into a company run by relatable people who they could potentially become friends with. Warm connections are the first rung of trust that builds a bond between you and potential customers.
One way of creating a warm connection with website visitors is to name some of your hobbies, interests or other personal details on your website. Are you a wine connoisseur? If your prospect is too, they’ll feel more connected to you because they share a similar passion. Have a family? If your prospect does as well, you just became a bit more real and a bit more personable.
How charities can create a warm connection
I suggest you upload to your website the logos of charities you support. These can have incredibly powerful effects on visitors (more on this in the next chapter), one of which is to instantly create a warm connection. If the prospect recognizes the charity you donate to, they immediately have something in common with you. You’ve formed a warm connection and therefore gained instant credibility.
Charitable donations also show you’re a goodhearted business
The second way a charity boosts credibility is rather obvious. It simply shows you’re a compassionate business with its heart in the right place. The majority of businesses don’t donate to or help charities. Not only does doing this help you stand out, but it also reveals your humanity: you care about those less fortunate than you, and this reflects on your company and the way you do business. If you care about a charity enough to support it, you are likely also going to care about your customers.
1 If you’re interested in learning about the full Thai cave rescue story, this is a great article that tells the nitty gritty details: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-44791998